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Science ‘Heroes’ and Global Citizenship?

By Jon Agar, on 10 October 2008

The STS department has just launched its global citizenship program, with new courses and new outreach. One of the most innovative parts is a course called Action for Global Citizenship, in which students work together learning activist citizen skills such as organisation and planning, persuasion and engagement.

So it was intriguing to read this week’s editorial in Science. Its title is ‘A populist movement for health?’

 Now unless you have a subscription you can’t read the content online. (Understandable for main content, but surely a shot in the foot for an editorial?). So here’s the key thoughts.

‘One of the most effective science-based movements to raise public awareness of a global problem has been Al Gore’s efforts, complementing the science-based work of the IPCC, to expose the perils of global warming’. Human health is also a global problem. But science-based global health solutions (which the editorial writers equate solely with new drugs that work on new targets as revealed by the Human Genome Project) are not forthcoming at the rate desired. ‘How can we stimulate innovation amd enlightened policy?’ ask Jim Wells and Mary Woolley, ‘Is a Gore-like populist movement possible for global health’? ‘It is time’, they conclude ‘for the scientific community to launch a bold combination strategy, the most important element of which is to identify the “Al Gore(s)” of basic science’. Yes, indeed.

More calls for heroes. Is this a good strategy for global citizenship?

Imagine a different world where, instead of waiting for invented heroes to step forward, every scientist had an ‘action for global citizenship’ training as part of their education. An articulate, socially-aware generation of scientists with the self-possession and skills to organise and persuade…

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